DC This Week – Rejoin the SuperFamily

Reading Time: 26 minutes
Iris West in Flash #20, 2017
Flash #20 cover

This is a good week for new readers to jump in with the Super-Family, with Supergirl #8 providing us with a recap of what happened and hinting at what’s to come in an issue that guest-stars Superman. Kenan also gets a visit from Superman in New-Superman #10.

Over in Superman: Action Comics #977, the Daily Planet staff is all back together, though Clark is still doing more investigating than Lois. However, Iris West is doing the reporting work in Flash #20.)

Not so good a week to be a member of the Bat-Family, alas, at least not on the page, as the League of Shadows has the entire crew near defeat in Batman: Detective Comics #954. Meanwhile, Gotham’s ghosts come to haunt Olive Silverlock in Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8.

This plus reviews of Titans #10, Justice League of America #4, Hal Jordan & the Green Lantern Corps #18, Wonder Woman #20, Super Powers #6, Batgirl & the Birds of Prey #9, Suicide Squad #16 and Red Hood & the Outlaws #9.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS BELOW

Grade A Reading

Supergirl #8 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Matias Bergara, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Great Place To Start Reading the Series

Ray: I’ve been complaining for a while that despite the overall story in this book being strong, it’s been coming so fast and furious that it feels like we barely got to know Kara and her supporting cast. That’s finally not a problem with this incredibly charming issue that serves as an epilogue to both Superman Reborn and Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. When last issue ended, Superman had tracked down Supergirl for their first meeting since Rebirth. Of course, since then, a lot of things have changed, and the two near-strangers are now family. The lack of any sort of family relationship for Superman and Supergirl – they rarely interacted even pre-New 52 – was always a pet peeve of mine, but here they’re immediately given a strong bond that’s deepened in some unexpected ways – Orlando digs into their shared language, the differences in their personal immigrant experience, etc.

The issue is full of small, strong moments. The interaction between Kara and Jon made me grin, and the National City food tour was a great touch. Loved Lois and Cat’s implied rivalry, too. Of course, it’s not all family bonding, as Superman lets Kara know about Mr. Oz, and Emerald Empress shows up with a massive axe to grind against Supergirl. The issue does a good job of setting up future plotlines without letting them overwhelm what is ultimately a character-driven issue. There’s some closing set-up for plotlines too – a corporation may have gotten ahold of DEO technology, Ben Rubel is in the middle of this, and Batgirl is in town to follow up on the annual. However, ultimately this issue sells itself on the best characterization for Supergirl and her relationship to the Super-family that I’ve seen in a long time.

Superman and Supergirl in Supergirl #8
Kal and Kara bond in Supergirl #8, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Contrary to Ray, I felt the first seven issues of this arc did well by concentrating on her Kryptonian Family, showing exactly what Kara has lost. Her moment of rejecting her “father’s” plan for Earth was the moment when Kara choose to be a hero here on Earth and it was absolutely necessary.

Now, however, I’m eager to see her Earth life and there’s no better way to start that than the issue with her cousin, Superman. Not only does this serve as a great jumping-on opportunity for new readers, it’s also focused on the personal. After 40 years of reading comics, I’ve realized that the issues that I remember most are like this: personal and intimate. It also completes Superman’s transformation from angry loner to good guy/family man. This Superman is someone you can trust.

Another nice note: that Supergirl is learning from the DEO. In so many instances of human organizations formed to combat extra-normal threats, it seems like those organizations simply screw up until the real heroes arrive. But the DEO has a playbook and knowledge and their agents use it. Sounds like a small thing but it’s not.

The other small thing I loved? Lois’s comment about how she’s bugging Cat’s secret office. Now, THAT is Lois Lane, always looking for knowledge and one step ahead of everyone else. It’s one sentence while the Super-crew are at dinner but that one sentence does more for Lois’s characterization than her appearances in what should be her own books. I will add Orlando to the list of writers who I believe would write a terrific Lois Lane.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8 – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Writers; Msassyk, Artist; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Beginning Of the End For the Academy?

Ray: First up, sad news. The end of this issue refers to next issue beginning the final arc of Gotham Academy. So one of the most original, entertaining books out of DC these days will be ending sadly, without the boost from Rebirth to keep it afloat. I’ll hope against hope that some of these characters will be making their way into other books because it’s hard to imagine everything being tied up neatly in only one more arc. In lesser hands, this issue could have been an unwieldy infodump, but it’s not. It’s exciting from minute one, as two different plotlines converge and finally reveal the truth behind the curses plaguing Gotham Academy. When we last left off, Olive – feeling betrayed and haunted by the reveal that Amy never existed – had slipped full-on into Calamity mode, just as Batman arrived to deal with her.

However, in many ways the biggest action this issue takes place as the Bookworm – now revealed as the mastermind behind just about everything dangerous that’s happened at Gotham Academy in this volume and before. He’s got Colton and Pomeline at his mercy, and it’s only thanks to Katherine – or a little bit of her – that they manage to escape. Got to say, Bookworm is a great villain – he’s completely unassuming, and yet totally evil with no compunction about it. Thanks to the book that both Bookworm and Pomeline have been obsessed with, we finally find out the origin of Calamity, a brutal tale going all the way back to the Puritan-era Gotham settlement. And it turns out that both Olive and Pomeline are permanently linked by a centuries-old tragedy. With Olive’s fate up in the air, this final arc is going to have a lot to tie up. If they can stick the landing, Gotham Academy will go down as a modern DC classic.

Olive Silverlock in Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8
Olive is possessed in GA: SS #8, image via DC Comics

Corrina: This is such a terrific concept: the children of Gotham’s scions at a boarding school that contains more secrets and mysteries than Hogwarts. The creative team has done a great job introducing new characters to the Gotham universe, like Olive and Maps and Kyle and Colton and so many others. The art has been incredible, producing a gothic look well-suited to a creepy old property in Gotham.

Alas, it didn’t sell nearly as much as it should have, perhaps because its readers reside more in the Young Adult book market than in the comic book monthly issue market. I can also see this as a terrific television series, in the vein of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but with the whole history of Gotham as mythology, along with a terrific multi-cultural cast. At the very least, I hope the trade collections enjoy a healthy shelf life.

Batman: Detective Comics #954 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Marcio Takara, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Could Batman Lose?

Ray: This is the issue where all the mysteries surround the League of Shadows come to light, as two different groups of villains converge and Batman figures out exactly how deep the rabbit hole goes. There ARE some shades of Identity Crisis here, in that Batman can’t quite trust his own mind. As the issue opens, Ra’s pays a visit to the Batcave. After a battle, Batman manages to trap him, and that’s when he figures out that Ra’s isn’t actually his adversary here. He attempts to interrogate him, and Ra’s finally lets the truth out – he created the League of Shadows and entrusted it to Shiva, only for it to spiral out of control and become something far worse than he intended. Ra’s is at his best as a chess master here, playing Batman and Shiva against each other and proving why he’s one of Batman’s most effective villains.

Meanwhile, the other major player in all of this is Jacob Kane and the rest of the Colony. Having just seen the League of Shadows seemingly kill Kate and take her body away, he’s desperate to get out of Batman’s cage. Suddenly, he and his men are freed – by none other than Colony Prime and Ulysses Armstrong. Armstrong was one of the highlights of the Colony arc, an oily little gamer-bro turned armchair warrior, and he’s just as smug and hateable here – the sign of a great villain. I don’t even want to know what his plans are for Tim’s costume. However, the scene everyone will be talking about is the ending shot for this issue, setting up Cassandra Cain’s epic battle next issue against her mother’s army. Remember that iconic Wolverine scene with him in the sewers? That vibe. I got chills. Two weeks can’t get here soon enough.

Batman and Ra's Al Ghul in Batman: Detective Comics #954
Who has the drop on who? Batman and Ra’s face-off. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I cannot wait for Cassandra Cain to cut loose. Even better from a story perspective, we, the reader, know what that will cost her emotionally. She’ll win but confirm the worst fears about herself.

Ra’s hasn’t been written this well in quite a long time. Many portrayals, even lately over in Teen Titans, simply are surface: “immortal, contemptuous, evil.” This Ra’s is more complicated and, thus, more formidable because we have no idea how much of what he says is the truth. He could be legitimately admitting to needing help. He could be just as easily playing Batman. We think it’s the former but we feel Batman’s frustration that he has no answers.

About Jacob Kane’s escape: I still dislike what’s been done to his character and while Ulysses made a good foil for Tim, I rather dislike the idea of Jacob’s organization coming to the Batman team’s rescue, as that justifies the actions they took that led them to do something that should have resulted in Tim’s death. I want the ends to not justify the means, in the end, for Jacob and for Batman’s way to work the best. Maybe that’s not realistic but this is a superhero book and I hate to see it conclude that collateral damage is necessary. We’ll see.

Superman: Action Comics #977 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Ian Churchill, Artist, Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Recap Time

Ray: There’s a clear bit of reorientation this issue, as the Rebirth and New 52 status quos are no more. Clark Kent is now back working at the Daily Planet alongside Lois, Perry, and the rest. Must say, watching the group banter this issue really was like coming home. Jurgens is the consummate Superman writer, but he really excels at writing the classic status quo. While Superman’s life is back what it should be – he’s Clark Kent again, his identity is secret, and he has his family – he’s missing bits and pieces of memory from the recent events, and isn’t quite sure what Mxyzptlk did. That leads him to the Fortress of Solitude, where he uses the Kryptonian crystals to revisit the destruction of Krypton and his flight to Earth. We’ve seen all of this before, of course, but it does seem like we’re back to a classic Superman origin, and the Krypton segments are rather powerful.

That’s not all that’s going on in this issue, though, as this arc seems to be the lead-up to the coming Superman Revenge Squad arc. A mysterious new villain, represented only by digital code, has emerged. Eradicator? Someone else? Either way, he’s approaching Superman’s major villains one by one. First comes Metallo, who is currently trapped in some sort of disassembled limbo. This mysterious villain recruits him with promises of a new body. Metallo may be slightly sympathetic, but that can’t be said for Blanque, who is currently occupying himself by tormenting random small towns. The new villain offers him the chance to cause chaos on a massive scale. The overall issue is a good balance of strong flashbacks and intense present-day content, so overall a strong start to a new arc.

Lois & Clark plus Perry at the Daily Planet in Superman: Action Comics #977
All is back to normal at the Daily Planet. Or is it? image via DC Comics

Corrina: This is a good place to jump onto the Superman stories, as is no doubt intended by DC, as it sets up the old/new status quo, even with Clark Kent back at the Daily Planet in his old job, now that his secret is safe. The Krypton recap is familiar but I liked the artwork and the inclusion of Kara. (I guess this new status quo solves the problem of Kara and Kal, now that the other Kal is gone/assimulated.) (Also, I assume the events over in the other Superman book with the mysterious neighbor cause Lois & Clark to decide to move.)

As for Lois, I remain cranky. There’s a mystery and something’s not right. Ideally, Lois and Clark should work as a team. But she’s back to the mom role again, though it’s good she remains working. Alone, it’s not that big a deal. Taken with all else going on–as I mentioned in last week’s recap–it’s annoying as heck. When will we actually get a Lois Lane story, as seemed promised with the bait and switch of Superwoman? (Which I have enjoyed on its own terms but if Lana can have a title, why not Lois?)

The new villain? Not sure what to think of him/it yet. Could it have a connection to the hackers who were part of the problem for the new 52 Superman?

Justice League of America #4 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Ivan Reis, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Joe Prado, Inkers; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: A Good Win

Ray: The first arc of the new Justice League of America comes to a close with a thoroughly satisfying finale that triumphs despite most of its villains being stock characters. The Extremists, 90s Marvel pastiches who previously took apart the Justice League Detroit, are now ruling over the Eastern European nation of Kravia and their leader, Lord Havok, has begun conquering the nations around him. Now the Justice League has taken the fight to them, and most of these fights are just sort of generic. Black Canary vs. Gorgon offers nothing interesting, and Lobo vs. a Sabretooth pastiche is just senseless blood. However, there are exceptions. Death-Bat makes a genuinely creepy adversary for Killer Frost, and Ray’s showdown with Dreamslayer is less a battle than a meeting of minds. This segment really shows Ray’s strength as a hero and reminds me a little of how Orlando writes Supergirl’s compassion as her greatest strength.

Batman vs. Lord Havok is the main event, and it delivers. Batman comes to the fight armed with to weapons belonging to the heroes Lord Havok killed on his world, Crusader and Thunderer. This allows him to hold his own, but in the end it’s Vixen who triumphs over Lord Havok with the power of a…poison dart frog? The Kravian people are given back their country, with the young revolutionary Bogna taking on a leadership role. There’s a lot of teasers for something bigger at the end here. Dreamslayer, whose powers far outstrip any of the other Extremists, simply decides to disappear rather than fight the Ray, making me wonder how he fits into the overarching Rebirth plot. The capture of enchanted metal weapons seems to hint towards the Dark Nights event. And then there’s the reveal that Blue Jay is alive in the Microverse…where someone else is stuck as well. Odd choice of villains, but in the end a thoroughly enjoyable opening act.

Corrina: It’s been an interesting four issues. On the whole, I liked the single issue stories that introduced the new League better than this four-issue story arc but this final chapter nailed the ending, as Ray said, and added some characterization that I missed (for heroes and villains) in the previous issues.

Obviously, Orlando is making a political statement about dictators and strength imposed from the top down. That quote of Vixen about strength being the ability to help each other stand up is a terrific one and, I’m sure, about to be reblogged a great deal over on Tumblr. And I love the poison dart frog winning the battle for Vixen. It’s a clever and creative use of her powers, far beyond the usual “elephants stomp people” and “tigers attack.”

I’ve been vocal about the presence of Lobo in this group. Perhaps Batman wanted to keep such a weapon away from Waller and thought Lobo was better kept under control in this new JLA. Or perhaps it’s about the mysteries we’ve yet to solve. At least Black Canary’s questioning of Lobo’s presence mirrors the reader’s confusion about why he’s there.

A fine start to the series.

The Flash #20 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Neil Googe, Artist, Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Iris West Spotlight

Ray: This issue serves as both a break issue before the next big storyline of The Button and an issue that ties up a lot of plots going back to the very first issue of the series. It’s also an Iris West spotlight issue, and I find this interesting because while Corrina says Lois Lane hasn’t been doing a lot of Lois-like things lately, this issue Iris felt much more like classic Lois Lane than Lois has in a while. The brash, independent reporter who is not afraid to put herself in danger and infiltrate villains and terrorists to get a story? That’s Lois, but it’s good to see another kick-butt female reporter get her due in the DCU. The issue opens with the reveal that the bodies of Godspeed’s murder victims have been taken by unknown culprits. After meeting with Barry to find out if Meena’s body has been taken as well (the absence of a body was a big loose end there), she starts investigating STAR Labs.

Sure enough, it doesn’t take long for her to find out that Black Hole is sneaking in the lab and taking the bodies. Iris quickly encounters an evil scientist, but takes her out and steals her armor, allowing her to infiltrate the villains. This then leads to her pumping the main scientist for information, getting found out, and being saved by Flash – and then saving him in turn, which was a nice twist on this plot. The two really work well together, and there’s a strong undercurrent of the havoc a secret identity can play on a relationship when one partner’s constantly lying to another. The end of issue reveal – that Meena is in fact alive, and working for Black Hole – was kind of predictable, and I had been calling her as a double agent of some sort since her “Death”, but overall it’s a fun issue that sets up some interesting plots for the post-Button Flash-verse.

Iris West in Flash #20
Iris West does her job in Flash #20

Corrina: Yep. Iris is definitely in classic “I need to follow the story” mode. And I enjoyed the heck out of it. Williamson’s characterization of everyone has been very good but his Iris has remained somewhat in the background (though always working) until the spotlight this issue. I hope it’s a sign of things to come, especially since I expect Barry’s reveal that he’s the Flash to cause some serious problems in the relationship, even as she and Barry work together. As Wally pointed out, that’s just not cool, Barry.

However, I’m less than thrilled to see Meena behind all this. The ex-girlfriend becoming the villain is such a cliche and this run of Flash has avoided those so far. I expected better than that, though at least it resolves the mystery of her death.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #18 – Robert Venditti, Writer; V. Ken Marion, Penciller; Dexter Vines, Inker; Dinei Ribeiro, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Definitely an Ensemble Book and I Love That

Ray: The first thing I observe as I open this comic is that, apparently, King Kong is a Yellow Lantern. This pleases me. Of course, Space Ape – and his new Green Lantern partner – don’t have their tenure last too long, as they encounter jade spiders made of living will on an alien planet, and are quickly overwhelmed in a tense, creepy action segment to open the issue. Meanwhile, back on Mogo, the Sinestro Corps are building a new central power battery in the heart of the GL headquarters, and Kyle is getting used to being a Green Lantern again. Venditti is doing a great job combining all four GLs into one title and unit again. We don’t know too many of the Sinestro Corps yet, but I will say that some of them are getting some really unique, intriguing designs that make me want to learn more.

A brawl soon erupts during the construction, making clear that the bad blood between the two Corps is still far from over. I was kind of amused to see Guy and Arkillo becoming the new face of inter-corps unity, pulling themselves out of their sickbeds to play the grown-up and settle the feud between the two corps. We’ve also got a reunion between Kyle and Soranik, which is brief but packed with context – although I kind of wonder how much of their past relationship happened and how it played out, given that they broke up over Jade. Meanwhile, Saint Walker is deputized by Ganthet and Sayd to seek out new Blue Lantern recruits across the universe, and as Hal and John investigate the disappearance of the two Lanterns at the start of the issue, we get the return of a major DCU player who has been missing for years – Rip Hunter – as this title once again throws us for a loop. Momentum keeps on building in the GL-verse again.

Corrina: I expect crazy space battles in this book. I never expected for Rip Hunter to show up. Kudos to the creative team for throwing me a curve. I like when I can’t predict what will unfold next.

How many Lanterns, Green and Yellow, are in this book? So many that I lost count. Yet the art team made each distinctive and threw in the terrific visuals of the opening sequence as an extra bonus. I’m really enjoying this book since it became about all the Green Lanterns and not just Hal.

Wonder Woman #20 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Bilquis Evely, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: If Only CaleWould Ask the Right Person For Help

Ray: Since he returned to Wonder Woman, Rucka’s taken it upon himself to redesign most of Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery. Ares is now a brutal force of nature, while Cheetah is a far more sympathetic and morally complex character, almost a victim. Lesser WW rogues Dr. Cyber and Veronica Cale are now enmeshed and are given far stronger motivations for their hatred. And it’s their bond, and Veronica’s bond with her daughter that provides for the reintroduction of arguably Wonder Woman’s true arch-nemesis, Circe. No longer an imperious Themysrican sorceress but a trickster who is notoriously hard to summon, it’s almost difficult to recognize Circe at first, but this new version of the character is very entertaining at first glance. She’s cruel and petty, sure, but in an almost gleeful, casual fashion. The villains are really the star of this issue, with Wonder Woman in the background fighting Cheetah.

As people will remember, Veronica Cale’s daughter had her soul stolen by the twisted demigods Phobos and Deimos, the children of Ares. With her daughter still trapped in a mystical limbo five years later (and the visual will never not be unsettling), Veronica’s given up on conventional means and hatched a scheme to trap Phobos and Deimos with Circe’s help. By the time Diana enters the issue again for her first face-off with Circe, the trap is perfectly set, and the two demigods find themselves trapped and furious as Diana and Circe engage in a battle of wills on the battlefields of Qurac. Bilquis Evely’s art just gets better and better with every issue, quickly proving herself an equal to Nicola Scott on this title. And by the end of the issue, it seems Ares is back in the picture in a big way. It takes a while for stories to unfold in this title, but when they do, the final effect is usually spectacular.

Veronica Cale and her daughter in Wonder Woman #20
Veronica Cale has consulted everyone for help. Except Wonder Woman. image via DC Comcis

Corrina: I have not seen anything creepier in comics than what happened to Veronica Cale’s daughter. That is a terrific villain motivation but, alas, it also shows how people can be warped by obsession. Had Diana been asked to help, she would have moved the heavens and the gods to help that little girl. It’s Cale’s tragedy that she never tried that route and instead went to Circe.

And this new Circe is a lot of fun. She practically jumps off the page. This is how to do villains. Because I am on board with their goals. It’s their methods that make them villains. Usually, the better the villain, the better the story because there is so much to overcome. That’s been the case with this run.

One wonders, however, if Veronica Cale is beyond redemption. Perhaps, given how she values other lives so much less than her own daughter’s, that she will always be villain. But will she realize what she’s done? We’ll see.

If this arc doesn’t end in the daughter’s survival, I will be very, very sad.

New Super-Man #10 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Viktor Bogdanovic, Artist; Jonathan Glapion, Inker; Mike Spicer, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Easy Way Is Too Easy

Ray: The addition of Avery Ho, previously of the Flash, to this title is a great move, as she proves an intriguing foil for Kenan as well as a fellow young hero roughly his age for him to interact with. This is essentially a team-up issue, as Kenan winds up working with not just Avery and Luthor (tentatively, on both counts), but with the original Superman, fresh out of Reborn with his history once again intact. Of course, unlike in Supergirl, there’s not all that much time for them to catch up and chat. There’s a massive portal to the afterlife, that after some mistakes, starts spewing hundreds of demons into the mortal realm. Kenan, still without the majority of his powers, is tempted to essentially steal them with Luthor’s prodding, but winds up choosing to follow I-Ching’s path.

The battle between the heroes and the demons is colorful, exciting, and more than a bit ridiculous, which is how I like it. Giving a demon a super-speed Heimlich to get him to cough up magical rings? That’s exactly the kind of comic book silliness that makes me love DC. However, things then get very serious towards the end, as one big reveal after another happens. Avery joining the Justice League of China full time, I sort of saw coming, and the same for Superman recruiting Kenan against his all-powerful new enemy. However, while we knew Kenan’s dad was still alive in some form, the guardians of the afterlife have a pretty shocking reveal about his mother as well – and then there’s the last page reveal, which throws the motivation for a major character into complete doubt. This book deserves so much more in the way of sales – it’s one of DC’s most consistently unique titles.

Corrina: Kenan amuses me, in that he’s a hero still figuring out what being a hero means, and that leads him to make some head-scratching choices while the adults around him throw up their hands, like I-Ching. But it also makes me want to give Kenan a hug because he has gone through a lot, he has no idea who to trust, but he wants to do the right thing. If he can figure it out. And he does, and I’m still smiling about the demon Heimlich and how Kenan’s x-ray powers were unleashed.

Luthor, too, is essentially defeated by Kenan’s actions, which must drive him nuts. Good.

B & C Level Books

Red Hood and the Outlaws #9 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: It’s Okay

Ray: As the search for Artemis’ origins begins in this new arc, the story kicks off by taking Jason back to a place with some nasty memories for him – Qurac, where he was murdered by the Joker way back in “A Death in the Family”. The country is now in a massive refugee crisis that seems to parallel Syria, something that’s also dealt with in Wonder Woman this week, but Artemis’ quest has gotten Jason to return to this country for the first time in years. It seems the Bow of Ra is in the hands of a mad general who is using it to create bloodshed. When the trio of anti-heroes attempts to enter Quraci airspace, they’re promptly shot at by the General – but Bizarro shrugs it off and carries the plane in for a landing after ripping apart several enemy planes.

That is, until the General deploys the Bow of Ra, which knocks them all out, and it’s only thanks to Bizarro’s ice breath that they survive at all. They’re promptly captured by Quraci troops, while Bizarro wakes up in the middle of a Quraci village that has mistaken him for Superman. I’ve got to say, Bizarro’s storyarc in this book has probably been the most enjoyable part of it, as the brutal clone finds himself surrounded for the first time by people who see him as something more than a living weapon. I tend to prefer lighter takes on Bizarro like the recent Corson mini, but this is a good direction as well. Meanwhile, Jason finds himself locked up in the same prison he was killed in years ago, and comes face to face with his past – literally – and Artemis meets the apparent main villain of the arc in a strong if slightly predictable twist. With a strong character focus, this remains the best work Lobdell has done since he returned to DC with the New 52.

Corrina: Lobdell does okay when Jason has the spotlight and is being introspective about his life. I wouldn’t go so far as it’s the best work Lobdell has done since he returned to DC because that implies this is a fine comic when it’s merely just okay. I remain unhappy with Artemis and her backstory as well, especially since the villain reveal was rather obvious.

Bizarro is okay, too. He’s just chaotic enough.

Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #3 – Robbie Thompson, Justin Jordan, Writers; Barnaby Bagenda, Artist; Alex Guimaraes, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: These Green Lantern crossovers tend to combine a lot of plotlines and a lot of Corps into one story, and much like Star Trek, this third issue is no exception. In fact, it almost feels over the top, to the point that I was surprised that this was only issue three and we’re in fact just hitting the halfway point, not the climax. Lots of different players get their own roles here, as Sinestro interrogates and manipulates Dr. Zaius into working with him to get his hands on the Universal Ring. Meanwhile, Hal has found a few allies in the Ape world, although he’s still officially a prisoner. This means he has to be paraded around in chains, but that doesn’t stop him when an officious ape guard pushes a little too far.

The main conflict this issue is between main villain General Ursus, and Ape hero Cornelius. Cornelius, usually a heroic figure, has gotten his hands on the Universal Ring, which has given him the power needed to take on Ursus’ army – but it’s also made him a bit unstable, as we start to see as he switches from power to power. Meanwhile, Guy Gardner and Arisia are invading the ape world to get their friend back – with Grodd in tow as a translator. Grodd’s main role this issue seems to be to yell that he’s an ape, not a monkey, but I’m sure all hell will break loose when he gets out. With an intriguing cliffhanger, this continues to be another solid addition to the DC crossover stable.

Super Powers #6 – Art Baltazar, Franco, Writers; Art Baltazar, Artist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Clever Defeat of Darkseid

Ray: This felt like a slightly rushed ending to this fun, over-the-top kid-friendly miniseries. Darkseid has arrived on Earth, and the entire hero community is out in force to stop him. Baltazar and Franco’s style is definitely geared towards light, silly scenes, so big climatic battle segments aren’t particularly their forte. Darkseid yelling a lot while the heroes fight him isn’t exactly gripping comics, but there’s a great selection of guest stars and power gags that work pretty well. I was surprised to see the Jeff Smith/Mike Kunkel versions of Shazam and Mary Marvel show up here, a great callback to a forgotten gem from the early days of the Johnny DC line.

The ending feels a bit rushed, with Superman recruiting Starro’s help to take out Darkseid and possessing him long enough to toss him in a boom tube. There are some fun cameos with the Arkham inmates, but I’m really not sure what Joker’s role was supposed to be in this story. He’s sort of forgotten until the ending when the heroes simply round him up. The story actually ends on a cliffhanger, with Luthor visiting Jor-El to debut his latest disturbing scheme, but I’m not sure if a follow-up is planned? If not, feels like a poor decision. I praised this series throughout for its ambition, but I’m wondering if it may have bitten off a bit too much for six issues.

Corrina: I’ve said it before–if this book was being drawn by someone whose characters are less adorable, it would be grim beyond belief. But since Baltazar draws it himself, it’s adorable, fun, engaging and yet still manages to tackle serious subjects.

I remain a bit confused about the whole El family tree and it seems like many heroes made an appearance to be just on the page but this remains the best way to introduce young readers to the DC Universe.

C-Minus–Needs Work

Titans #10 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Bumblebee Needs Fixing. Fast

Ray: There’s something missing from this book, has been for a while. Dan Abnett is a solid writer and has done a good job with these characters in Titans Hunt, and the first arc focusing on Wally West and returning villain Abra Kadabra was fairly strong. However, aside from those stories, this title doesn’t really feel like it has an identity, and that’s clear in this arc, which drops a major status quo change on one of its characters in an almost unceremonious way. The issue begins with an elaborate battle between the Titans and the Fearsome Five, who have captured Nightwing and Wally. These villains have always been semi-generic, with decent designs but no real personality beyond “evil”. Their current MO of stealing powers from metahumans to sell, is intriguing, but the execution is middling.

I was most interested in Mal Duncan – who gave up his powers at the start of the arc – putting together a jury-rigged costume and heading off to the battle site to rescue the Titans as Guardian. However, Karen definitely doesn’t need his help, as she debuts on the scene as Bumblebee and proceeds to dominate the Fearsome Five, taking them out singlehandedly. Really, the Mal-and-Karen dynamic is probably the strongest part of the book – which makes it all the more disappointing when Psimon wipes her mind and leaves her with no memory of Mal or her child. So much for one of the only functioning husband-wife teams in the DCU outside of Superman and Lois. Next up is the Lazarus Contract, crossing over with Deathstroke and TT, which should give this book some new momentum.

Corrina: Not having a true identity for a title is the same problem Abnett his having over in Aquaman, where the flow also feels choppy and uneven. This has been a decent arc to show their teamwork but two things are holding it back.

One, the artwork is garish, exploding off the page and not in a good way to my eyes. Perhaps others like it but it interferes with my enjoyment of the title.

Two, of all the people to depower and erase their memory, we picked the one women of color? Bumblebee had a great moment and I was thrilled with it but, c’mon. That is enough. The loss of powers/identity have been more interesting with Donna, considering how she’s been questioning her whole identity. Or Roy, whose memory has plenty of holes, anyway. Or even Wally, who is back in a world that doesn’t remember him. It would be interesting to see a Wally with a fresh start. But Bumblebee? :sigh:

Note: I did like the homage to the Teen Titans run in the mid-1970s by Bob Rozakis when Mal pulled an exoskeleton out of storage to defeat the villain,

Failing Grades

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #9 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: This has been one of the most consistently disappointing comics in the Rebirth staBle, delivering versions of the BoP without the rich characterization they get in Green Arrow, Batgirl, and the former Grayson run. Instead, the characters feel like shadows of their former selves. This issue is devoted almost entirely to Black Canary, as she goes undercover with the new villain Blackbird, taking on the codename Nightingale Noir, which is suitably dramatic for a fake villain. First taking part in Blackbird’s fight club, she eventually gets the attention of the villain, who recruits her to her secret training program. Joining an elite club of young metahumans honing their powers, Dinah actually does learn methods that make her powers significantly stronger.

However, Blackbird has other plans, of course, and when metahumans reach a certain level of strength, Blackbird ambushes them and drains their powers. When Dinah approaches Owen, a fellow recruit with a decent streak, he tries to play the hero and take on Blackbird alone. However, he is soon taken down by Blackbird, who has immunity to psychic influence from one of her former students, and she soon brainwashes Dinah with his powers. This sets Dinah against her teammates in the BoP, who only appear in a two-page segment this issue alongside Nightwing and Green Arrow. The issue is a bit better than the last few, with no new “Oracle” and no troublesome characterization, but nothing really stands out in this title.

Corrina: I’m definitely a reader who reads for character, rather than plot. But there comes a point in a plot where it makes the characters look stupid or ridiculous, and that has happened quite a lot in nine short issues. For instance, Black Canary going undercover when she used to be a rock star? Why would that work? Why would Roulette not spot the deception and why would Blackbird not do some basic research as well? Why doesn’t Babs have Dinah under better surveillance? Why is Dinah so dumb as to let Owen sideline her? These are not the actions of a veteran hero.

Basically, the plotting shifts the characters instead of letting them shine. It’s disappointing.

Suicide Squad #15 – Rob Williams, Writer; John Romita Jr., Eddy Barrows, Pencillers; Richard Friend, Eber Ferreira, Inkers; Dean White, Adriano Lucas, Colorists

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: No One and Nothing To Root For

Ray: This is…really not a good book, in any sense of the word. Despite some great artists on board, including the legendary Romita Jr. and Eddy Barrows, who delivered a stunning story on the first Rebirth Detective arc, the problem here is that neither the characters nor the plot really grab my attention. The opening story, by Romita, focuses on the final showdown between Waller’s Squad and Rustam’s private army of criminals. The problem is, neither side really gets much in the way of characterization. Rustam is an anarchocommunist stereotype, prone to ranting extensively about corrupt governments. His team is little more than ciphers. Major developments, like Deadshot losing a hand and then being revealed as a double agent, are brushed past casually. It all feels very unceremonious as Rustam is defeated, although the last scene with Deadshot and his daughter is nice.

The backup feature, focusing on Waller and Harcourt’s battle for control, begins on an off-putting note as something is mentioned about the murder of “Governor Hogan” in Washington. Given that there’s actual a real Governor Hogan next door to Washington in Maryland, this feels like an odd thing to insert in the comic. The story is mainly devoted to explaining just how Waller survived her “death” by gunshot. Waller’s long game has won back the support of the government, giving her control of Task Force X again, and she plans to use it to bring Zod into the Squad full-time. She’s also forming an uneasy alliance with Lex Luthor. Waller continues to be the best character here, but so far the plot just hasn’t lived up to her potential, and the abrupt loss of Hack this arc is a really bad move for the series. Why even bother to introduce originals to the Squad if they’re all marked for death?

Corrina: If everyone in this book dropped dead, I would be totally okay. Yeah, maybe I’d miss Harley but DC would never kill her and, anyway, she’s more fun in her own book. Rustam never became an interesting villain, of course Waller is still alive, and Deadshot turns his coat once again. And Boomerang too.

Hack, the only semi-sympathetic and interesting character, is dead, and it’s Waller’s fault, and the reader has no closure there. A plague on all their houses, right?

There is complex characterization to be had in a Suicide Squad team. But I’ve seen no evidence of it lately.

Scooby Apocalypse #12 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Dale Eaglesham, Tom Derenick, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Ray: By now, we essentially know what this book is – a grim and gritty pastiche of the Scooby Doo universe without much in the way of intriguing characters or forward movement. Until now, it’s been missing a major antagonist beyond the roving bands of monsters, but this issue introduces us to Velma’s utterly repulsive older brother, Rufus Dinkley. We know from minute one we’re supposed to hate this guy – after all, he’s a corpulent, crude man-child who lives in a gilded tower with his name on it. He abuses his much-younger wife, kills his underlings, hunts monsters for sport, and is in general a revolting human being. The references aren’t subtle here.

The big problem is that the title still has nothing in the way of interesting protagonists. You’ve got the four main characters, but they still don’t really seem to like each other and break out into arguments at the slightest provocation. The confrontation between Velma and her brother doesn’t happen this issue, just a lot of lead-up. And then there’s the backup, where Scrappy-Doo takes a break from euthanizing puppies to adopt a one-armed kid. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to sympathize with Scrappy now, but really, it’s Scrappy. Does it matter?

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes

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